Buying and selling of tickets, or ticketing, is not a particularly sexy topic in Kenya when it comes to technology. In fact, you could say, the business of ticketing has remained in the proverbial dark ages with only a few businesses and companies bothering to digitizing the process – be it paying for bus tickets or the next big music concert. One of the major players in this space would have to be Kenya Airways who have had an online booking engine for years that lets you buy tickets using your credit card or mobile money. Personally, I have bought tickets on Kenya Airways using M-Pesa and apart from being super convenient for someone like me, it works just fine!

However, when rethinking the concept of ticketing in the context of technology in Kenya, this is an area that has been largely untouched, until now that is. Over the last year or so, it seems to me that two companies are aiming to capitalize on this nascent opportunity to streamline the ticketing process for businesses and people, online, and on mobile. The big deal here is that there are over 10 million Internet users in Kenya and over 16 million mobile subscribers have access to mobile money in the form of Safaricom’s M-Pesa. This convergence of sorts if a BIG untapped opportunity for a vast range of digital services, e-ticketing included.

The first company of note is PesaPal, which is probably the first business that really got into on e-ticketing in a serious way. I remember buying tickets to the Jonathan Butler concert held in Nairobi late last year in this way, using Safaricom’s M-Pesa for payment. However, what was ironic is that on arriving at the concert, no one (initially) seemed to know about the e-tickets that had been sold and someone had to rummage through a file to get details. I suspect that this logistical hiccup must have been resolved by now at current and future events. PesaPal has since branded their e-ticketing offering as and it seems they are signing up a good number of businesses – it seems to be paying off.

The second company of note in Kenya’s burgeoning e-ticketing space came to my attention this past week. I am attending the Safaricom Classical Fusion event this afternoon and having been out of the country I needed to buy tickets online by this Friday as this was the deadline. After searching online, I found a solution through which seems to be a product of BernSoft, a well-established ICT solutions business based in Nairobi. It seems to me that PataTicket is essentially the same as TicketSasa and what remains to be seen is which of these offerings will scale fastest in signing up businesses, and become a part of mainstream consumer brand consciousness.

I think that the e-ticketing space has a very large opportunity in Kenya and the broader East African region. What is already apparent in both TicketSasa and PataTicket is that mobile money and more specifically Safaricom’s M-Pesa will be key due to the lack of adequate credit card penetration in the region – it’s a perfect fit! It means that long queues and missed opportunities could be a thing of the past for a wide range of businesses that need e-ticketing solutions. It would be great to see this reach the level of what I recently experienced in South Africa when using CompuTicket to buy movie tickets – it works across a myriad of payment channels and they even have an Andorid mobile app. South Africa’s CompuTicket is essentially how far both SasaTicket and PataTicket could potentially go. It’s a bright future for e-ticketing in Kenya – whichever way you look at it!